Gentle Giants

For centuries, elephants have been an important part of Thai culture. On the battlefields of ancient Siam, elephants were considered war weapons for their ability to trample enemies and knock down barricades. The rare white elephant can still be seen on the flag of the Royal Thai Navy, paying respect to the role these animals played in the country’s battle techniques.

In order to learn more about these amazing creatures, I spend the day at the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai. Here, I will befriend an Asian elephant and train to become a mahout. Mahouts specialize in breeding, training, and tending to these animals.

A mahout will care for their elephants for life. Imagine being the sole care-taker of an animal that can weigh up to 9,000 pounds and lives to be over 50 years old. To me, that’s a massive responsibility and a true display of loyalty.

During the course of my mahout training, I feed, bathe, and conduct a health check on my elephant. Feeding an elephant is no small task as its daily food intake can be up 650 pounds, which is way more than any pet I’ve ever had to feed! With a simple “ma!”, my elephant opens her mouth; allowing me to feed her bananas.

It’s an amazing experience to have this noble creature respond to my commands! I understand why mahouts develop such unbreakable bonds with these gentle giants.